Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Powell Gardens

In the latest stop in the continuing series of family "staycations," mommy, daddy, Baby Girl, and both sets of grandparents took a day trip to Powell Gardens.

Powell Gardens is an amazing oasis of nature just 30 minutes east of Kansas City in Kingsville, MO. Nestled among over 900 acres of lush rolling hills, this beautiful collection of native and exotic plants, flowers, and trees; fountains, streams, and water features; shaded walking trails; wildflower meadows; and inspired architecture, offer a welcome reprieve from the strip malls and traffic of everyday life.

Sorry for the "flowery" language, but this collection of gardens really leaves a lasting impression.

At the end of the afternoon, rounding the last corners of the trail, we were all amazed that we had spent over 4 hours strolling through the gardens. Even if you are not "into" gardening, this place really draws you in: butterflies drifting from flower to flower--cool breezes blowing across the lake--shaded benches to stop and rest and enjoy--each hour draws you closer to the natural roots that stir in each of us.

This year, through October, the Gardens are also featuring "Chapungu: Nature, Man & Myth." These 54 hand-carved stone sculptures from Zimbabwe, all along the walking paths, reflected their natural setting and only added to the overall effect.

Baby Girl really enjoyed herself too. She usually gets antsy in her stroller, but she just kicked back and enjoyed the ride all afternoon. She had lots of flowers and butterflies and waterfalls to keep her occupied. I think the serene settings of Powell Gardens even succeeded in calming the rambunctious nature of a nearly-two toddler.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Shark says Arf

Dogs, cats, bears, pigs, fish, and elephants--all creatures great and small say Arf!

So says Baby Girl.

Our little 22 month old is in full-on language experimentation mode. A new word every day; new noises, sounds, and syllables; numbers, letters and more.

Did you know that our counting system starts at five? and then goes to nine??? Five, nine, five nine, nine, nine, nine! She has started saying one and two with prompting, but goes straight to five and nine after that.

This past weekend, she woke mommy up with a reading of the LED display on her alarm clock. All fives and nines of course.

She has started to pick up several words from her Dr. Seuss ABC book: bee, baby, bubble, ear, mice, straw, and tree.

She is getting a good start on body parts: eyes, mouth, ear, hair, and nose with the ever popular finger inserted while saying it. One of her first recognized body parts was the belly button, bay-bow, she's still working on the pronunciation.

Her parents, daddy and me me have been named, as have her grandparents; dapaw and mamaw, pa pa and gee gee.

This is most definitely the good part! Next thing you know she will be saying, "daddy, can I borrow the car keys?"

Friday, August 8, 2008

Apple Picking Baby Girl

Well, they were really tomatoes, but Baby Girl called them "appo's." Everything is apples right now: roundish fruits and vegetables, roundish objects like her red Weebles--not balls though, they are balls--many red or green objects are apples, and even the dried fruit in the snack mix are apples (pineapple, mango, papaya, etc).

After firing up the grill and having dinner on the patio, we went out to the tomato patch for some picking. A family that picks together, sticks together!

One problem, Baby Girl liked to pick the green ones! Appo! Appo! Appo! That girl was a pickin fool. I tried picking some ripe ones and letting her put them in the sack. That worked for a few seconds. She went back to the green ones. So after we hurried and got all the ripe ones, we went inside. But Baby Girl was not ready to quit. She cried all the way up the stairs until mommy could stick a sippy in her pie-hole.

I am sure all you gardening parents have been through this too. And we were warned about the prodigious picking abilities of toddlers. So we planted eight Roma and eight Big Boy plants. That should be plenty for us, plenty for the squirrels and bunnies, and plenty of appo's for the Baby Girl.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Viticulture Field Day

This past week, we dipped a few more toes into the frigid waters of our plans to start a vineyard and winery business.

I've been making homemade wine for several years, and we have a small test plot of about 90 grapevines that we are currently training onto trellises.

We attended a viticultural field day hosted by the MU Institute for Continental Climate Viticulture and Enology (ICCVE). It was a big vineyard geekfest attended by around 150 like-minded folks. We learned about trellis design, canopy management, grape varieties in Missouri, and grow tubes. It was also an opportunity to meet people at all stages of the vineyard business. From those that managed full-time vineyards to people like us that were just getting started with a few vines and had a lot to learn.

The morning session was hosted by Fahrmeier Farms near Lexington, MO.

This is one busy family farm here in Missouri. In addition to their newly established vineyards, they also maintain greenhouses, vegetable production, a variety of livestock including cattle, goats and hogs, and a winery is also in the works. Anytime you feel like your schedule is full, just think about how many projects these guys are juggling. Contact info: 9374 Mitchell Trail - - 816-289-2496. Visit their Tomato Days blog at:

After a delicious lunch featuring pasta and salad with locally grown tomatoes, and fresh raspberries and ice cream for dessert, we went to the vineyards of Baltimore Bend Vineyard near Waverly, MO.

Each session was hosted by university professors who were specialists in a given field of viticulture. They took us out into the vineyards for hands-on demonstrations of each of the topics. It's one thing to read about trellis design, but to see the different options in person and see how they need to be built really helps understand the importance of this part of the vineyard.

The question and answer sessions that followed each presentation were really helpful also. We strayed off topic, and got some good hints about disease and pest control, and organic growing options.

We finished the day with a wine tasting at Baltimore Bend. Their first vines went into the ground in 1997. They are making some really great wines! They feature several oak barrel aged wines using Cynthiana, Chambourcin, and Chardonel grapes that are well suited for aging in the cellar and several blends of red and white grapes. We picked up two bottles and shared them with family and friends this weekend (unopened wine does not last long in this house).

After a day in the hot vineyard, the tasting session lasted for quite some time. Big surprise ... vineyard growers like to drink wine! We talked with several people at the same stage as ourselves, and we met the MU extension contact for our county. He has started having small informal meetings of people in our area who are in the process of starting or expanding their vineyards.

We heard a good vineyard joke that kind of sums up the decision we are working towards. How do you make a small fortune in the vineyard business? Start with a large fortune and start a vineyard.

This field day was another step on the long road to starting a vineyard of our own. It will be hard work, cost a lot of money, it will take many years before it is established, and many more years before we can even think about any black ink on the ledger sheet. But it is a very rewarding project that we love doing and with all the negatives, the positives make it a goal we continue to pursue.